Eat Your Way To A Better Night's Sleep With These Tips & Tricks

A new book reveals why a good night's sleep may be tied to our gut health

Gut health plays a role in regulating good and healthy sleep. Photo / Babiche Martens.

It's little surprise that many of us are struggling to sleep right now.

Financial worries, digital devices and Covid are obvious reasons, but it turns out gut health plays an important role in sleep too.

According to a new book, improving your gut microbiome can improve sleep by reducing stress and regulating your circadian rhythm (an internal process that controls your sleep-wake cycle).

Eve Kalinik, a nutritional therapist and author of Happy Gut, Happy Mind, says: "Many of my clients don't sleep very well, which can affect everything from their mood and focus, to their skin."

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Stress releases cortisol, your waking hormone, and it typically spikes between 2am and 4am, which can mean those who are under pressure during the day can be wide awake during those hours.

This leads to a cascade of poor food choices, from caffeine to sugary foods, which are known sleep saboteurs.

Kalinik advocates a stress-relieving practice before you tackle your diet, as the burden of chronic stress has a profound effect on your adrenal glands. "When your adrenal glands are working overtime, health problems from poor sleep to long-term gut issues can begin."

“Take the hour before bed to remove stress - and that includes anxiety around getting to sleep. That might mean writing down any concerns and ‘brain dumping’ from the day, so this stress isn’t swirling around your mind. Take a warm bath, read a book or do some meditation or deep breathing exercises.”

In the current working-from-home climate, our continuous use of devices is another cause of underlying stress that affects sleep. “Blue-light exposure in the evening is particularly disruptive. Frankly, the bedroom should only be used for two things and neither of them is internet shopping or checking social media.”

Kalinik advises against using our mobiles as alarm clocks and instead suggests getting an old-fashioned clock, switching off your phone and putting it in another room when you go to bed.

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Restrict your intake of caffeine (from tea, coffee and energy drinks) to no later than midday, and stick to no more than two to three cups per day on average.

Eat foods that produce GABA (a "calming" neurotransmitter) that can promote better sleep, such as green, black and oolong tea, milk kefir, "live" yoghurt and tempeh. Try lentils, walnuts, oats, almonds, fish, berries, spinach, broccoli, potatoes and cocoa too.

Avoid quick energy fixes like sugary snacks, junk food and soft drinks. These foods and drinks can mask fatigue, so we get less rest and end up more sleep-deprived. We then compensate by eating more of these foods to get energy, further disrupting sleep.

Avoid skipping meals and include plenty of complex carbohydrates in those meals, such as whole grains, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, spelt, wild rice or sourdough, along with some kind of protein to keep you full.

Alcohol disrupts the hormones that govern the sleep-wake cycle by producing a chemical called adenosine. This hormone makes us feel sleepy, so we go to sleep, but then wake before we're fully rested. Using wine or beer to get to sleep isn't a good idea.

 - Telegraph Media Group

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